Toy Story 2010: Lower prices, higher tech
By Andy Goldberg Oct 6, 2010, 9:27 GMT
Los Angeles - That age old question of what to get a kid who has everything has finally been answered - and the good news is that it only costs 30 dollars.
That's the price of the new toy from Mattel called Puppy Tweets, a device that sends Twitter messages from stay-at-home dogs to their owners in school or at work.
Though many intelligent human beings have yet to master the art of tweeting, the ingenious device allows a mere hound to step to the forefront of the technology world.
It works by attaching an electronic dog tag complete with a bunch of sensors that figure out what the dog is doing. Then it lets you and the world know what man's best friend is up to by broadcasting the big news courtesy of Twitter and your computer's internet connection.
The tag is set with dozens of prerecorded tweets that are triggered by the dog's activities. So if Rover is running around, you might get a tweet that says 'I finally caught that tail I've been chasing and ... OOUUUCHH!' And if the Fido is talking a nap the tweet may read: 'Some days it feels like my paw is permanently on the snooze button!'
Mattel says that Puppy Tweets capitalizes on the craze for social media and always-on connectivity, not to mention the growing personification of animals.
But Puppy Tweets also taps in perfectly to the dominant trend of the upcoming holiday toy season. In keeping with the worldwide sense of austerity and the ever-decreasing cost of technology, many of the must-have toys this season will be cute, high tech and cheap.
Time to Play magazine, which publishes a widely read list of the season's hottest toys, has focused this year on playthings costing less than 50 dollars. These include the Air Hogs Moto Frenzy, a micro-radio controlled motorcycle that performs cool stunts and has a nice trick up its sleeve - a price of only 25 dollars. It faces stiff competition from the Hot Wheel Stealth Rides, tiny remote controlled cars at the same price.
But the low prices could mean a boon for the toy industry with Time to Play editor Jim Silver predicting a sales rise of 1-2 per cent over last year's levels.
'This year's toys are about great play tied in with value,' Silver said at a press conference announcing the list.
For girls the magazine recommends Disney Princess & Me Dolls - a traditional play experience dolled up with a huge line of accessories and an online subscription. They might face stiff competition from Monster High, a new line of dolls that tries to cash in on the craze for monsters and vampires.
More gender neutral is Leapster Explorer, a portable handheld gaming device that can download dozens of educational applications, and Loopz - an electronic memory and reflex with changing patterns of music and lights. There's also V Reader, a kind of Amazon Kindle for kids, that sells for 60 dollars.
Gift buyers will find it hard to resist the impossibly cute Zoobles, a range of 100 plus characters that pop open magnetically from tiny balls. Other must-have figures include Sing-a-ma-jigs for 13 dollars each - with six characters to choose from, each with its own personal song, and Squinkies, rubber figures for the tops of pencils, for seven dollars. The word in the toy industry is that supplies of these items are already running low.
Halee Hobson, who writes a toy blog for the website modernmom.com was ecstatic about the cheaper-is-better mood espoused by Time to Play. 'Advanced technology has been popping up in children's toys and gadgets this year, but the surprising and awesome part of this is that price tags are not being hiked along with it,' she gushed, with only a single caveat. 'If only adult electronic toys had these kinds of prices!'